Mali. Home of Timbuktu, Mansa Musa and former Barcelona midfielder Seydou Keita. Home no longer to a democratically elected government.
Whilst the eyes of the world have been on the growing revolution in Belarus, a small contingency of the Malian military did what, so far at least, the Belarusian protest movement has failed to do; arrest the government and force both the President and the Prime Minister to resign.
Coups are hardly new to West Africa, indeed the country with the largest number of coups (or attempted coups) is the country to Mali’s south, Burkina Faso. What is perhaps more striking is that this has happened to a country that has been a linchpin in the fight against Islamic extremism, in a country that was relatively stable in comparison to its neighbours. The forced resignations of President Keita and Prime Minister Maïga have led the world to prise one eye away from Minsk in order to monitor exactly just what will happen in Mali.
The military has promised to establish a temporary civilian-led administration and, crucially, has committed to holding free and fair democratic elections as soon as viable. However as Mssrs. Lukashenko, Mnangagwa and Museveni will attest to, ‘free and fair’ is not always worth the paper it’s written on. One of the more striking figure of this particular coup (given that there have been at least two previous attempts in the last decade) is the seemingly high level of popular support amongst the civilians.
The international reaction to the coup was universally negative. The African Union has suspended Mali’s membership and there have been growing calls from the likes of Algeria and Senegal for Keita to be reinstated; an action that looks unlikely if not impossible. One of the most interesting statements of condemnation came from Mali’s old colonial power, with French President Emmanuel Macron hinting that, whilst France condemned the coup, the fight against the northern separatists would mean that the Elysee Palace would be willing to work with whomever emerges from this coup unscathed.
Only time will tell whether or not the military are actually willing to transition power over to a new government. Until then, the future of all Malians is up in the air, with no sign of it falling to earth any time soon.